31 January 2005

Single...With Children: It's More Than Frequent Flyer Miles

Single With Children: Adjustment is two-way street

By Susie Parker
Publication Date: 09/08/04

My daughter turned the magic 21 last week.

I used to hear my parents talk about how fast time flies, and I didn't really understand exactly what they meant. I was busy spending my time taking care of a newborn, who didn't quite grasp the concept of day and night, and a 31�2-year-old going on 13.

Some things don't really change. I used to pace the floor, wringing my hands over elevated thermometer readings. I now pace a different floor because my watch tells me my son should be home already.

Last week was full of celebrations for my daughter, and after I heard her schedule, I felt lucky she penciled us in for a family dinner - a time to celebrate a rite of passage she didn't think would arrive, and one I thought arrived too soon.

My ex-husband flew in from the other side of the country to spend the weekend with the kids and enjoy a special visit with the birthday girl. I'm sure it was expensive and complex to make arrangements for a four-and-a-half hour flight, one way, to spend 48 hours with our son and daughter.

Since my divorce almost seven years ago, Katie and Justin have never lived in the same city as their father. This past weekend, I heard a few minor grumblings from the kids about rearranging their schedules and having to put off activities with friends they see every day of the week. I must confess that I was disappointed and almost embarrassed at their selfishness.

I wanted to say, "Do you realize what all your Dad had to do to get here? How much time and money it took to make a trip halfway across the country?" It finally occurred to me that my observations and input were never requested. Learning to let go is an art, and that requires practice.

I've commented on just how hard it is for noncustodial parents to fit weeks and months of parenting into a handful of days. What I temporarily forgot is that it's equally challenging for children, especially older ones, to step into the role of being the "child of the noncustodial parent" and briefly step out of an established life.

Adjustment is quite often a two-way street.

Tea, coffee and soup all come in "instant" form. Patience and time, however, do not, and it's just as well. The instant variety isn't nearly as good as the traditional, and the effort is almost always worth the difference. Long-distance parental relationships may take a little while to warm up but they eventually get there, if allowed the space.

As the hours of the weekend ticked by, the activity level picked up, and the intermittent chatter I overheard led me to believe my daughter, son and their father were getting along.

As it turns out, my meddling wasn't required and probably would have broken something that was never really broken in the first place.

Things have a way of working themselves out, especially when I stay out of the way.

Readers can e-mail Susie Parker at susiewrites@gmail.com or write to her c/o Amarillo Globe-News, Features Dept., P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166.

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